Boots & Sabers

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0718, 17 May 23

More Rail in Wisconsin Could… Could Attract 250,000 New Passesngers

But at what cost?

MADISON – State transportation officials who want to expand Amtrak rail to Wisconsin’s population centers of Madison, Green Bay, Waukesha County and other communities project the move could attract about 250,000 new passengers to the trains within a decade and an additional 1.6 million by 2050.


The state Department of Transportation this week released a long-term plan for Wisconsin’s rail lines that includes the department’s vision for rail service in Wisconsin over the next three decades, including proposals to extend passenger rail to 11 new communities in Wisconsin that would connect the state’s capital and Milwaukee.

The first assumption that they don’t even bother to explain is that increasing rail passengers is a good thing. Is it? At best, it’s neutral, isn’t it? So some people who might prefer to take a train from Green Bay to Madison can do so instead of driving. So?

And what will that cost? Look at California… it ain’t cheap. So let’s say it will cost $20 Billion (probably low) to expand the passenger rail service so that someone can take a train from Wausau to Madison in 4 hours instead of driving it in 2. So we should spend $80,000 per ride to build that out?

Can we just accept that we like our cars and want to use our government resources to be used to make the roads better and stop making cars more expensive?


0718, 17 May 2023


  1. dad29

    stop making cars more expensive

    Jeez, Owen. You have 50++ years in this country and you still don’t get it? “Making cars more expensive” IS THE POINT. You will be herded into Gummint transport, Gummint housing, and Gummint food stores.

    You will have nothing, but you will like it. If you don’t like it, someone will deal with you. At night. With cuffs and/or deadly weapon.

    As to the ChooChoo, Barrett’s Folly now attracts about 4 people/hour of operation, and it is free of charge. But that’s not what “Government projections” said, is it?

    Their lips are moving and you know what that means.

  2. Merlin

    Purchasing lunar real estate would be a better investment.

  3. jonnyv

    I am good with rail. But, it has to be HIGH SPEED rail between our major metro areas (Chicago – Milwaukee – Madison – Minneapolis). It has to be forward thinking. It shouldn’t take me more than about 20% longer to get somewhere if I take public transportation, and preferably less. And it needs to be cheaper than flying.

    I am not against car travel, but the cycle is: Widen roads, more people take the highways, more congestion, widen roads, more congestion. That isn’t a sustainable model long term, we have seen this play out for 50 years. Is it really any better getting to Madison or Chicago than it was 30 years ago? Add on to that road maintenance in our northern environment. Not only that, but public transportation is infinitely more safe mode of transportation. Car accidents have been going up over the past 10 years due to distracted drivers and smart devices. If you ask someone if they would rather just sit and play on their phone while someone takes you someplace as opposed to have to pay attention to the road for 4 hours, I know what that answer will be.

    What could throw all of that for a loop is the self-driving vehicle. But I think we are still 20-30 years out from that realistic scenario of a large portion of the population having access to a safe self-driving vehicle where they don’t have to pay attention to the road and the car or AI just handles it for us. I read that kids are postponing getting their licenses more and more. And anecdotally I see that in my son’s friends and other family members as well. They don’t see the need to be forced to get a license, they can see their friends online now.

    Dad29, FWIW. The Trolly gets about 60 riders/hour. Based on an average run time of 19 hours per day per month and I used January’s 2023 ridership numbers which are usually on the lower end of the year. Personally, I don’t love the Hop. I don’t like the permanent nature of the tracks. I think they could have accomplished something similar with an alternative mode of transportation.

  4. MjM

    From the Article: “Now, a 2021 bipartisan law signed by President Joe Biden has resuscitated the idea as it sets aside $102 billion in federal funding for rail lines across the country, much of it for passenger rail projects

    Heh. That’s less than the since-inception quadrupled $128B cost for the Kalifornia Klacker.

    Earlier this year, mayors of Pewaukee and Watertown, who also could see new Amtrak stations on the potential expansion of Amtrak’s Hiawatha route, signed a letter to federal rail officials in June backing the idea.

    So, Neo-Hiawatha will start in MKE, stop in Brookfield, Pewaukee, Oconomowoc, (then go north to) Watertown, and finally (back south to) Madison. That’ll take around 2.5 hours and Sun Prairie will be pissed for being passed over. Drive time: 1:15.

    btw, taking the choo-choo to Chitown takes as long as driving. Round trip Train: $50 Gas: $20-$32 (30mpg-20mpg @ $3.50/gal)

  5. dad29

    Car accidents have been going up over the past 10 years due to distracted drivers and smart devices

    No. Stupid (and entitled) drivers. You’re doing the equivalent of blaming the gun for murders here.

    Widen roads, more people take the highways, more congestion, widen roads, more congestion.

    You’re blaming ROADS for “more congestion”? How about “more population,” which is the logical cause?

    As to the trolley, here’s McIlheran:

    In all, five people Hopped on, then off, as we trundled 2.1 miles across downtown. It’s a bit under what the latest federal transit data says is average: In 2021, for every mile the trolley ran, four people got on; for every hour a 150-passenger car runs, 23 people board.

    That’s why it surprised no one that, when a garbage truck crashed into a streetcar in March, no passengers were hurt, there being no passengers.

    That’s from yesterday’s Badger Institute web-page.

    MjM: The Mayor of Pewaukee is a wacko-Lefty. We got their latest citywide mailing. They hired a Karen to write it; it was disgusting.

  6. MjM

    JV toots : “ widen roads, more congestion. ”

    Wrong. Nothing contradicts your assertion more than than…

    1) Eastbound 94 dropping from five to four to three lanes at Hawley Road.
    2). Westbound 94, same area, where you go from driving three lanes StartStopStartStop to normal highway speeds 2000 feet past The Home of The Brewers
    3) Northbound 894 into 41 North, again four lanes to three at Watertown Plank (this area is, thank God, finally being widened)
    4). Southbound 894 at Hales Corners/I43 exchange, four lanes to three.
    5) 43 Northbound, three lanes to two after Silver Spring.
    6) 94 Westbound at Hy SS in Pewaukee three lanes to two (all the way to Sun Prarie)

    All of theses areas have been cluster-Fs for decades. The worst of these, is, of course, the Brewers exchange, where there are 10 on/off ramps – left, right, merged both – to I94 in the span of about 1/4 mile. The engineers who designed this F-up should be hanged from the scoreboard.

    JV wonders: “ Is it really any better getting to Madison or Chicago than it was 30 years ago?”

    To Madison from MKE, no, because it’s still mostly 2 clogged lanes. But I90 has been widened from North of Wanaki all the way to Beloit.

    To Chitown, Hell YES! Four beautiful lanes from Mitchell all the way to the state line and beyond (for a while). All with extended on / off ramps so you don’t have to worry about loaded concrete trucks getting up to speed. Governored semis can run in lane 1 and 2 and still be out of the way. The only issue is, still, FIBs.

  7. MjM

    @Daddio: the guy who didn’t pay his water bills on time for six years? ‘natch.

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